Islamabad/Karachi - In a victory for Amir Khan-led group, the election commission on Monday removed Farooq Sattar as the convener of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P).
A five-member bench headed by the chief election commissioner approved the petitions filed by Bahadurabad faction of the Urban Sindh based party.
The bench also rejected Sattar’s application challenging the jurisdiction of Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to hear petitions involving “internal matters” of the MQM-P.
Reacting to the development, the beleaguered leader called it a “dark verdict”. He said he has been punished for keeping the party intact after parting ways with former MQM chief Altaf Hussain.
Farooq Sattar also saw a conspiracy of the establishment behind this move to break the MQM into insignificant pieces ahead of the upcoming general elections.
But following his press conference, MQM-Bahadurabad leaders in their media talk once again invited Sattar to join them.
History of conflict
Altaf, who is in self exile, had been running the MQM from London for decades like a mafia don before the authorities clamped down on the party cadres in Karachi, after he issued anti-state statements and provoked his supports to storm some media offices.
To save themselves from the heat and the party from total annihilation, almost all the MQM leaders living in Pakistan announced their disassociation from their UK-based boss under the leadership of Farooq Sattar on August 23, 2016.
Differences within the MQM-P had started soon after its formation and they came out into the open on February 5 when Sattar and Amir led groups clashed over distribution of tickets to candidates for the March 3 Senate election, splitting the party into two groups.
Both sides were quick to take extreme actions against each other. The Bahadurabad group, including large majority of party’s Rabita Committee, ousted Dr Sattar from the post of convener with a two-thirds majority.
Sattar struck back with holding a workers’ convention the same day, dissolving the coordination committee and announcing intra-party elections. On Feb 18, Sattar was elected the party ‘convener’ after securing over 9,000 votes in the intra-party elections held by his group.
Further ECP decisions
On Monday, accepting the petitions filed by MQM-Bahadurabad leaders Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui and Kanwar Naveed Jameel, the ECP also nullified the intra-party elections held by the PIB group in which Sattar was re-elected as party convener.
The commission also accepted a petition challenging the resolution passed at an “emergency general workers’ meeting” called by Sattar last month.
At the convention, when Sattar had asked the participants through a resolution if they would endorse the coordination committee decision to remove him as the convener, the workers had replied in the negative.
Dr Faroow Sattar had earlier this month challenged the jurisdiction of ECP to hear petitions filed by the rival claiming the petitions involved internal matters of the party and the commission had no jurisdiction to hear those.
On February 27, the ECP had given two days to Sattar-led PIB faction to submit replies to rivals’ petitions.
One of the petitions asked the election commission to replace Sattar with Siddiqui in its record as MQM-P head, as the former had been removed by a two-thirds majority of party’s Rabita Committee.
Another petition challenged the February 18 intra-party elections. The Bahadurabad faction, which had elected Siddiqui as the convener after removing Sattar, had boycotted the exercise.
Speaking to reporters after the ECP decision, the chief of his MQM-P PIB group said the judgment issued against him would be remembered as a “dark verdict”, and he termed it “illegal and unconstitutional”.
“I have been punished for keeping the MQM-P intact after the disassociation of Altaf Hussain with the party... Some powers don’t want to see MQM-P united,” he said.
He said he was also punished “today” for his November 9, 2017 press conference in which he had announced the end of an uneasy alliance with the Pak Sarzameen Party that both parties had suggested was brokered by the establishment.
Sattar claimed that never before the ECP had issued judgments on intra-party disputes in its history. He warned that the ECP ruling should be an ‘eye-opener’ for all as it would have consequences for all the political parties.
“It was unjustified, unethical, unprincipled and unconstitutional decision of ECP, as the Commission cannot interfere in the intra-party matters,” he said.
“The decision was announced by the ECP’s reader, as Sardar Muhammad Raza Khan (ECP chief) did not dare announce it,” said the former MQM-P chief.
Dr Faroorq Sattar said the “managed” verdict was part of a larger conspiracy to quash MQM-Pakistan and its symbol of kite ahead of the 2018 elections.
The alleged greater plan did not just include the minus-Altaf formula but annihilating the whole party by distributing its votes among different parties, he added.
“After minus-Altaf formula, now it was a step towards implementing minus-Farooq Sattar formula,” he said, adding that it was a plan to snatch ‘mandate’ of MQM-P.
MQM-PIB leader Ali Raza Abidi while speaking to reporters after the ECP judgment said the ruling was “injustice” with the Sattar-led group. He said he will urge Sattar to challenge the verdict because the ECP was a “repository of information and not a trial court”.
The ECP which cannot hold a trial does not have the jurisdiction to pass such judgments, he claimed. He observed that the verdict was not read out by the ECP bench, but was disclosed by a reader.
Bahadurabad’s unity call
Following PIB group leader’s press conference, MQM-Bahadurabad leaders in their talk with the media once again invited Sattar to join them to work together to solve the problems.
Faisal Sabzwari said the party has sustained massive losses due to the rift. “We are from the same party and if it exists we exist... So let’s get together,” he said, inviting Sattar to rejoin them. He said the party’s Rabita Committee has decided to formally invite Dr Frooq Sattar to “take the party forward together”.
Recalling that Sattar had said he would accept whatever verdict ECP issues on March 26, Sabzwari said the Rabita Committee had decided not to accept any division. He said MQM’s name, symbol and flag were all present in the party’s Bahadurabad office, which was the only MQM office. “There will be only one MQM in the elections with just one party symbol: the kite,” he added.
In response to a question, he said the committee had suspended Kamran Tessori’s party membership on principles and that decision was currently not being reviewed.
ECP removes Sattar as MQM-P head